Startup founders and their teams are now working from home with some forced to use personal PCs and laptops. IT and technology management consultant for SMEs Damian Kiernander outlines nine simple steps you could follow to secure your devices and protect your business online.
I’m afraid my first piece of advice is ‘don’t allow employees to use their own devices for work!’ The problem is that from an IT/security point of view we can’t know what that computer has been used for in the past and what nasties are on there. However, in the current coronavirus climate it is a case of needs must. Here is a checklist all founders and their teams can adhere to:
- Do not install a VPN which has access to the company network on a home computer. If the user needs files stored on a company server a colleague with access will need to forward these over. A VPN is a backdoor into the corporate network and should only be used on a company issued laptop that has been appropriately secured.
- Ensure the PC is running a currently supported Operating System – Windows 10 (check the current Window 10 build is supported) or MacOS 10.13+ which has run all updates. Make sure auto-update is enabled.
- Ensure all software and applications are up-to-date.
- Enable full disk encryption if it is available. This will require you to enable BitLocker on Windows 10 Pro (this isn’t available on Windows 10 Home) or FileVault on MacOS. The reason for this is to help protect any sensitive and personal data stored on there. Ensure you have strong passwords for all computer logins.
- Install an anti-virus/anti-malware product, even on a Mac. Run a full scan before logging into any corporate email, file sharing or collaboration apps.
- Use web-based access to corporate data where possible – Office 365 Outlook on the Web, OneDrive, Sharepoint and Teams can all be run via a web browser. This reduces load on the home computer which may not be as capable as a company issued one, and also keeps IT support relatively straight-forward, not having to configure/support Outlook etc.
- Create a new user profile on the home PC/Mac specifically for work and set it as “standard”, not an “admin” user. This stops the user installing software that shouldn’t be on there and more importantly helps to stop unwanted software being installed/run without the user’s knowledge.
- Only use known or owned wireless networks. Free Wifi networks can be operated by criminals who can intercept and steal data on that network.
- Be extra careful when clicking on links in emails. The advice that should be adhered to for avoiding phishing attacks should be applied to anything you receive regarding Covid-19 sites or maps. If in doubt go directly to the sites of recognised bodies instead of clicking on links received in emails, SMS or WhatsApp messages etc.